The Swahili Coast retail store is belatedly celebrating its grand opening at 88 N. Lexington Ave! Swahili Coast partners with worker-owned co-operatives in East Africa to develop and produce handcrafted accessories, home goods, apparel, and footwear. Swahili Coast works with makers to create small-batch artisan goods, with an eye toward supporting traditional crafts in a modern context. The Asheville storefront had a soft opening in 2021, but due to COVID restrictions and shipping challenges, we delayed our “official” opening until the release of our Summer 2022 collection.
The Grand “Opening” Celebration and Summer 2022 Collection release will be Saturday, July 9, 2022 from 4 to 7 PM, to highlight their “Tip your Artisans” program, which offers customers the opportunity to “tip” the artisans at checkout. All money collected is sent directly to the co-op, and to date, the program has sent back over $27,000 in direct payment bonuses to partner artisans. Swahili Coast operates on the “direct trade” model, working directly with artisans and co-ops to cut out as many steps as possible, in order to deliver profits back into the hands of artisans.
Founders Tony Peele and Caroline Fisher lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where they helped found their first partner co-operative in 2015, making beaded leather sandals and jewelry. The co-op is 100% worker-owned, and their products are sold under the Swahili Coast brand at their Swahili Coast retail stores in downtown Asheville and downtown Wilmington, and in stores around the US, Europe, and the Caribbean. They have developed partnerships with other artisans and co-operatives in the region, including brassworkers in Nairobi, basket weavers in the highlands of Tanzania, tailors in Nairobi, and carvers in Kenya.
Founders Tony and Caroline are both North Carolina natives, with Tony hailing from Black Mountain, where they also lived for several years after returning from Tanzania. Tony was a member of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce 40 Under 40 Class of 2016.